Birds of the same feather

A district divided: Unity and rivalry define school culture

Jordyn Sloan, Arts & Entertainment Writer

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Shades of red and blue pour into each team’s respective side of Falcon stadium. The home bleachers bleed Columbia blue while indistinguishable masses of Cardinal red spills across the field. Enthusiasm permeates through the air and pride shines bright from each side beneath the friday night lights.
Rivalries.
Hot against cold. Coke against Pepsi. Red against blue. Southport against Perry. Does everything need to be a rivalry?
The divide in Perry Township is most prevalent in sports, specifically football.
“The rivalry is a big motivational push for us to be better. Our leadership steps up when it’s time to face Southport,” says Brandin Green, a senior who has played football for Perry his entire four-year tenure.
The township rivalry began when Perry Meridian High School opened its doors in 1973. Southport had become too small to accommodate the growing number of students.
Southport High School students were divided. Half stayed at Southport while the other half went to Perry.
High school culture is strongly influenced by rivalry, as it has the potential to evoke a sense of acceptance and belonging among students.
The decades long feud between Southport and Perry is crucial to school pride, according to senior Dekahri Jones, football player of three years.
“People are just happy to be a part of something,” says Jones. “Everybody wants to win.”
When it comes to the rival sporting events in Perry Township, the energy is unmatched. Senior Dalton Lhotka, a recent transferee from Southport to Perry, has sat on both sides of the stadium.
“The energy on both sides is equally intense,” says Lhotka referring to which school displays the most pride on game night.
Competition is unavoidable. In fact, it is encouraged.
“It gives people from all different backgrounds a chance to unite and support one common goal,” says Lhotka.
But is there a point when the rivalry goes too far? Is there a point when Perry and Southport students forget that they are one in the same?
“It’s just a school rivalry,” says Green. “At the end of the day, all that matters is who shows up on Friday night.”
School rivalries should never turn hostile. Playful? Yes. Civil? Yes. Fun, for the sake of carrying on tradition? Absolutely. But rude, harsh and pessimistic? Never.
“It’s ultimately about the students and respecting one another,” says Lhotka. “When it starts to get serious, the fun is lost.”
While having a rivalry is motivating, it is important to remember good sportsmanship.
PMHS teacher, Nikki Knight, has been married to Brian Knight, principal of Southport High School, for 15 years.
“You’ll always have rivals,” says Mrs. Knight. “But at the end of the day, we’re all in the same district. We’re literally separated by a road.”
Mrs. Knight, a Student Voice (StuVo) sponsor at Perry, was partially responsible for deciding this year’s motto, “We Fly Together.”
“That phrase shows that we are all closely linked. We are all striving for the same thing, whether you’re from Southport or whether you’re from Perry,” says Mrs. Knight.
Now that football season is here and the timeless feud between the two schools occupies the halls of Perry Meridian, Green and Jones remind students of what it means to be a Falcon.
“We have to carry ourselves with pride,” says Green.
“I most definitely feel pride when it comes to playing for Perry and being a Falcon,” adds Jones.
In many ways, Southport and Perry push each other to be better. Year after year, the need for victory on both sides grows stronger. Each school is reminded of its unity, passion and determination.
But after all is said and done, after the game comes to a close and the stands thin out, one thought lingers amongst the spilled popcorn and plastic bottle wasteland: Maybe Cardinals and Falcons are not so different after all.